If you’ve spent countless hours on social media like most of us have, there’s a good chance you’ve come across the meme of the boy giving an iconic side-eye at a Popeyes. You might’ve even used it once or twice. His name is Dieunerst Collin, and his legend began when he was 9 years-old while waiting in line at a Popeyes. A stranger began filming Collin, thinking he resembled another boy who was famous for a viral meme going around at the time named Lil TerRio.
The clip quickly went viral after hitting the internets, and has since become a classic meme that’s still used to this day. That was nearly a decade ago, and in that time, besides internet fame, Collin has also gained some serious football skills. He’s now a freshman on the Lake Erie College football team in Painesville, Ohio.
Surprisingly, in a full-circle moment, Popeye has signed Collin to a sponsorship that will include his name, image, and likeness on billboards and in advertisements. Speaking to CNN, his family responds to the exciting news, and recalls how they initially felt:
“When it happened, we didn’t want to be in the spotlight. And just having that out there, people were coming to my dad and saying, ‘Hey, we’ve seen your kid on this,’ trying to make a joke of it. My dad didn’t like it for his kids to be joked on,” Collin told CNN. “But now, the fact that I switched it into a blessing, he likes it.”
As a college athlete, Collins is allowed to earn sponsorship money through a name, image, and likeness deal, also known as an NIL. To announce the partnership, Collin and Popeyes shared a post on Instagram that highlights his amazing story. Locals of East Orange, New Jersey, which is Collin’s hometown, can check out the first Popeyes billboard that features the college athlete.
The partnership was made possible by a post Collin made on January 8th, rallying his followers to help him convince Popeyes to hook him up with an NIL deal. The call to action worked, even inspiring other fast-food restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings and KFC to respond.
Surprisingly, it only took a few hours for Popeyes to send Collins a private message with an offer. Within a few days, Popeyes announced the partnership, “Proud to welcome Dieunerst Collin to the fam.” Shocked by the response, Collin said, “A lot can happen with the power of the internet behind you. I can’t believe I can say I’m officially sponsored by Popeyes. Thank you to everyone who helped spread the good word!”
While the details of the deals haven’t been publicly released, Collin says that after college he hopes to play professional football.